Nearly 3,000 Tennessee Students Honor Teachers In Statewide Essay Contest

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Tennessee Department of Education celebrated three Tennessee students on Wednesday for writing winning essays in a statewide contest highlighting the way in which educators impact lives. The winning students, one each in elementary, middle, and high school, described the teacher they were most thankful for in short essays and video messages. Representatives from the department surprised the teachers featured in the winning essays in three separate events in Memphis, Nashville, and Knoxville.


The department launched the “Why I’m Thankful for my Teacher” essay contest for the first time in early April. The contest, in conjunction with the department’s efforts to celebrate Tennessee educators during National Teacher Appreciation Week, May 5-9, was designed to share the powerful stories of learning happening everyday in Tennessee classrooms.

Hallie Humes, a second grader at Crump Elementary School in Shelby County, and winner of the kindergarten through third-grade category, submitted a video message about her current second-grade teacher Joyce Latiker Davis.

“I really admire when Ms. Latiker Davis makes work out of games, and I like how she thinks of it very quickly,“ Ms. Humes said in her video message. 

Reva Bagi, a fifth grader at Farragut Intermediate School in Knox County, and winner of the fourth- through eighth-grade category, described how her teacher, Niki Adams, makes her classroom a welcoming and productive environment.

“Ms. Adams really takes the time to focus on each of our problems. Her mind works like the inside of a clock. Gears are spinning, time is being used wisely, and best of all she slows the clock to make time for our problems,” Ms. Bagi said.

Hannah Balint, a freshman at Williamson County’s Page High School, and winner of the ninth- through twelfth-grade category, details how her eighth-grade Algebra teacher, Amy Tidwell, changed her academic career.

“She is a brilliant woman who taught in ways that seemed hard in the beginning, but over time became very manageable. She explained things to us and made sure that we understood them, which is one of the most important things that a teacher can do for their students,” Ms. Balint said.

Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman surprised eighth-grade teacher Amy Tidwell during Page Middle School’s eighth-grade celebration ceremony.

“We know that Tennessee teachers are working incredibly hard to help their students grow and achieve at new levels. We are thrilled that nearly 3,000 students shared stories of how teachers have impacted their lives,” Mr. Huffman said.

Each student winner will receive a $500 scholarship to the college of their choice. The Tennessee Business Roundtable, the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Nashville Chamber of Commerce each donated $500 to make these scholarships possible.

Winning essays and video messages are also featured on the department’s blog, Classroom Chronicles:

For more information, contact Kelli Gauthier at (615) 532-7817 or

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